There are so many project management tools today on the market, some are good but none of them are great. For me, none of these tools perfectly suited me to manage workflow and collaboration until I came across a CRM tool. This CRM helped me manage my projects better than any of the tools designed for project management. That tool is called streak.
The ‘Old’ Approach to Project Management
The market for project management tools is saturated. JIRA, trello, Asana, Basecamp, Zoho Projects. The list goes on. I’ve used many of them and most were helpful. They all allow us to add projects, break them down into tasks, assign users, report on workflow and other important functions. But where they all fall short is with email integration.
Email is King
If you’re like me and ALL of my clients, the main communication channel is email. Even if we have a call, it is almost always followed up with an email summary or reminder. When a client needs something from me, they’ll email me. When I update them on a project it’s done by email.
When I need to assign work to a resource, it’s done by email. So when it comes to managing a project, the key communication channel is email. This means I need to constantly shuttle between email and a project management tool. Whenever there’s an email update, I need to move this data into my project management tool and whenever there’s a project update I need to move that data into a communication format back to email.
I know many of these tools, like Asana, have email integration. This means I can forward an email from my gmail to Asana and then turn it into a project/task. This is one step in the right direction but not enough. There is still a disconnect, which to me makes all the difference and I’ll explain why.
Enter streak – into your Gmail
What sets streak apart is that it is a CRM in your inbox. This means that it’s not integrated with Gmail, it’s actually within your Gmail, yes, inside. A far higher level of integration than any other project management tool.
Project Management Example
Streak is, in essence, a CRM, it was designed really to manage a sales pipeline or a support pipeline. But I’ve adapted it for project management, here’s a working example of how I use it.
- 8 am: Just made a cup of coffee, client emails me and asks me to run a new AdWords Display campaign for mothers day
- 8:01 am: I get back to him immediately with a request for creative banners
- 8:40 am: client replies to email with banner set attached
- 9:00 am: after considering the best approach, I assign this email to a streak box called ‘Client X – mothers day banners setup’. I also break this box down into a few tasks, I assign it to an employee (James), set a due date for 2 days time and set a high priority because mothers day is approaching.
- 9:10 am: I reply to the client that I can have this turned around within 2 days
- 9:15 am: I forward only the relevant bits of this email through to James my contractor. James who is assigned to this box can now see all the data attached to the box that I have created. He can also see whatever parts of the email thread I do not delete in his forwarded email. I don’t want James to see all the info the client has sent me, only the relevant bits.
I also snooze the email to pop up just after the due date so that it’s easy for me to follow up. This is another streak feature built directly into your Gmail.
There you have it, within just a few emails, not only have I got all the required info from the client. I’ve created a task, broken it down, provided all the required information and assigned it to my resource with a due date and I’ve even set it up to remind me if not completed within due time. This is all done within minutes.
Streamlined, Integrated, Simplified. All In One System
Why is this better than say Asana or Trello? There are several reasons that all stem from streak not being integrated with Gmail but actually within Gmail.
Firstly, when I forward an email to a tool like Asana, the email data is copied and stored as text data and not as an email thread. So if I assign it to my employee James, I no longer have control over what is displayed. Also, let’s say James updates the task, if I want to update my client, I then need to pop out of Asana and back into Gmail. Streak simplifies all this and makes it all streamlined in one system. The client sees emails that are directed to him and my employee see’s relevant emails for him, all within the same project box. It’s beautifully simple.
Another thing that I do in streak, is assigning project boxes to stages within my workflow pipeline. Recall that streak is supposed to be a CRM so the stages are all customisable and setup to easily allow me to see how the project moves through the pipeline. For example, a project can be updated, let’s say from an ‘in progress’ stage to a ‘complete stage’.
The beauty of this is that streaks reporting tools let me see how these boxes are moving through the stages. I can see how a box flows from a client to a resource. I can see where they are getting stuck. Which clients are taking time to respond or which resources are not pulling weight. I can use the data to improve and streamline my processes all the way from client briefing me on a project to project completion within 1 pipeline.
Link Sales to your Workflow
A 3rd advantage is that I can link boxes from my workflow (project management) pipeline to my sales pipeline. So once the sale is made in my sale pipeline, the prospect is moved from ‘prospect’ to ‘closed sale’. I have all that info stored. Now when this client requests a task, a new project box is created in my workflow pipeline. But this project box is linked to the box in my sales pipeline. This connection allows me to view previous data on the same client. If an issue occurs on the workflow side I can look up how the interaction was at a sales level or what the project is worth.
Streak does have some shortcomings, like any tool, but these are manageable. 1) pricing is quite high, 2) time tracking – I currently have to use it conjunction with a time tracking tool like toggl. I believe there will be solutions to these issues as well in the near future.
So there you have it, give it a go! There’s a great free version with loads of powerful features and great for testing if you are just using it for yourself. I used the streak free version for close to a year for managing my own personal sales pipeline. But if you want to collaborate with your team, then you will need a paid subscription.
Mark is Co-founder and head of SEM at oneegg.com.au, an Australian boutique digital marketing agency.